The father of one of the victims of the Omagh bomb has said those who were killed during the Troubles “died for peace” and warned Brexit threatens a return to those “dark days”.
Michael Gallagher’s son Aidan was 21-years-old when he was killed in the Real IRA atrocity in 1998, which claimed 29 lives.
Speaking on RTE’s Claire Byrne Live, Mr Gallagher warned that Brexit could threaten the peace that has been built in the 20 years since the Good Friday Agreement.
“My family is a victim of the Troubles and also a victim of the peace and I think it’s important that we are here, that we are recognised,” he said.
“Those people who are in that book (Lost Lives, a chronicle of Troubles’ victims) have died so that we can have the peace that we have. This very serious situation called Brexit has the possibility of setting us back into those dark days.”
Mr Gallagher, who is now part of the Omagh Bomb Victims’ Group, said that due to Northern Ireland voting to remain in the EU referendum, while the UK as a whole voted to leave, the result has had the effect of causing division across the province.
“We do know that once you start to talk about polarising the community, you are creating a vacuum and that vacuum will be filled by people who want to make their own point through terror,” he said.
“We seen a few weeks ago in Derry how close that came again to a family losing their lives.”
“I believe in positivity, I believe in moving forward – but I think its also important to realise that those dangers are still there. We need to always guard this peace.
“In fact, the EU itself is an organisation that was set up after the second world war, as a peace organisation to bring people in Europe together, so I think it’s not a good omen that we’re starting to disintegrate, or part of Europe is starting to disintegrate.”
In recent weeks, several high-profile political figures have warned of a potential return to violence in Northern Ireland if a hard border is installed in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair said that if the UK leaves the EU without a withdrawal agreement, it would inevitably lead to a “really hard border” and cause a huge split within the UK.
“No one could responsibly propose (a no-deal Brexit),” Mr Blair said.
“It would be economically very, very dangerous for Britain, and for the peace process in Ireland it would potentially be devastating.
“You would have a hard border, a very hard border.
“A no-deal Brexit means a really hard border between north and south in Ireland, it’s contrary to the Good Friday Agreement and it will cause an enormous fissure within the United Kingdom.”
Mr Blair’s views were echoed by former Conservative Prime Minister Sir John Major, who said: “If we end up with a hard border in Northern Ireland it would be a betrayal of the 3,500 people who were killed and those who may well be killed if further violence were to start.”
DUP MP Gregory Campell, however, accused the two statesmen of “scare mongering” and using “extreme language”.
“Two former Prime Ministers should be more responsible in their language,” he said.
“This talk of violence and hard borders is careless in the extreme. They are playing on the fears of genuine people who live on the border.”
Belfast Telegraph Digital